Q&A

Hiring laws in Canada: Where do we start?

09/18/2014
Q. We’re considering hiring a woman from Canada to sell our products in Canada. We have no idea how to start the process of hiring a foreign worker. Suggestions?

Can a former employee demand access to her personnel file?

09/17/2014
Q. A former employee called HR asking to review her personnel file. We already let her review her file following termination last year, and nothing has changed in the personnel file since she reviewed it. Can we just tell the former employee “No”? Or can we ask her to pay for a copy of the file for her own records? Our HR manager is going on vacation next week. Can we wait to deal with the former employee’s request until after the human resources manager gets back from vacation?

How frank can we be with references?

09/17/2014
Q. We recently received a reference request from another company. We would like to be honest with the potential employer about the former employee’s performance issues. The employee was unreliable, did not get along with co-workers, and was always complaining to his supervisor about our business practices without any basis. Are there risks to being honest and giving the employee a bad reference?

Must we have a smoking section onsite?

09/16/2014
Q. Our smoking area is outside our building, but the smoke seems to be drifting into the ventilation system. An employee who is super-sensitive to smells has complained. Can we move smokers to their vehicles? Do we even need to provide a place for smokers onsite?

Drug tests: What to do about 'watered down' results?

09/12/2014
Q. We have a couple of workers who keep getting “negative dilute” results of drug tests. Our policy is to not accept the result and to retest. Can we require the retest to be an observed collection?

Does independent contractor status affect unemployment benefits for temps?

09/02/2014
Q. We’re aware of the unemployment comp responsibilities that come with being the last employer on record, so we require that all seasonal temps sign a policy that clearly states when their employment with us will end. If temps are hired with 1099 status, will our company still be responsible as the last employer on record and held liable for unemployment benefits? If we use a temp agency, are we liable?

How should we handle wage overpayment?

09/02/2014
Q. We recently overpaid an employee by $3,500 but the discrepancy was not discovered until six months later. Can we automatically and legitimately withhold those wages from his paycheck? Also, would it be inappropriate to dock additional wages for the employee not making us aware of the mistake?

If a new employee leaves in short order, is there a way to recoup training costs?

09/02/2014
Q. Can we require employees to repay the company (through payroll deduction) for training costs if they quit or are fired within one year?

What must I do about employee's wage garnishment to collect on credit card debt?

09/02/2014
Q. One of my employees recently notified me that a judgment had been levied against him on a suit to collect an unpaid credit card debt. A Texas court has issued the judgment, and I understand the judgment creditor may seek to satisfy it by garnishing my employee’s wages. What am I required to do?

Do I have to grant leave for employees who have been summoned or subpoenaed?

09/02/2014
Q. A few of my employees have been summoned to appear in court for jury duty service and to act as witnesses in trials. Is there any way that I can prohibit them from serving? And if I can’t, am I required to pay them during their service?

How should we comply with laws concerning expressing breast milk at work?

09/02/2014
Q. One of my employees recently gave birth and has asked me about the company policies regarding expressing breast milk in the workplace. What are the federal and state laws that I should consider for my policies?

How long to retain employment records?

08/29/2014
Q. I recently discharged some of my employees. How long must I retain their employment records? Are there different rules for electronic records versus paper ones?

If fired employee was truly awful, do I still have to give him final wages?

08/29/2014
Q. I just fired one of my employees for his constant tardiness. Because it is currently in the middle of a pay period, the employee has some wages due to him. When must I pay him these wages, and am I even required to pay him? I mean, I did fire him for being a terrible employee.

Are we courting trouble by denying accommodations to pregnant employees?

08/18/2014
Q. Since pregnancy does not qualify as a disability under the ADA, our company denies all special accommodation requests granted by otherwise healthy employees who are pregnant. Does this policy make us vulnerable to a lawsuit?

Does our automatic termination policy expose us to liability for ADA violations?

08/18/2014
Q. Our company has a leave-of-absence policy that states that any employee on leave longer than 12 months will be terminated. Our company’s leadership insists on this policy out of what they call business necessity. Are we opening ourselves up to risk?
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